As summer draws to a close, we prepare for the most simultaneously dreaded and exciting (even if some of them will never admit that second part out loud) day on every elementary student’s calendar: the first day of the new school year!
It’s around this time—when all the teachers in our lives are frantically trying to fill in any gaps in their plans for the year and doing everything they can to orchestrate the perfect first day—that we’re reminded of the ever-relevant words of Sun Tzu (paraphrased for teachers)…
“No lesson plan survives contact with the first day of school,” along with the ever-relevant words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “If the plan doesn’t work, change the plan, not the goal.”
Approaching your new classroom with a mindset of flexibility that encourages spontaneous discussions and deep interactions will help you reevaluate your curriculum in response to potential knowledge gaps, neurodiversity challenges and different levels of parental support in your students’ home lives.
These back-to-school writing prompts will help your students build the foundational skills they need to become successful at the different types of writing that they’ll use throughout the rest of their academic career and beyond!
Easing Into the School Year
As much fun as summer vacation is—and we can all agree that it is fun to have a break!—it’s also 10-12 weeks of largely unstructured time that varies drastically from the routines established during the school year. This stark contrast can be confusing or frustrating for elementary students, especially those who thrive within the confines of a predictable schedule from day to day.
It takes time to acclimate back to the norms and expectations of the classroom, and a little friction at the beginning is to be expected. The best way to manage this friction and make the transition from break time to school time go more smoothly is by starting with less challenging assignments that are designed to help young learners succeed and build confidence within their new classroom.
Ways to Ease into the School Year
- Establish your classroom routine and expectations early! Longtime teachers will be the first to tell you that your ability to manage your classroom can be established in your first week. Focus on being confident and decisive, and your students will follow.
- Read the room. It’s important to gauge the skill levels and abilities of your students at the beginning of the year to make sure they get to where they need to be by the end of the year.
- Sign up to receive our FREE back-to-school writing bundle! If you sign up, you’ll receive a series of worksheets, as well as our latest blog posts, freebies, teacher tips and more.
- Give it some time! People get better at most things with practice over time, and it’s important to acknowledge the adjustment period your students will be going through as they get back into the swing of things. It’s also important to acknowledge the adjustment period you’ll be going through, as well—try to set aside a few hours on the weekend for yourself to read a novel, binge some Netflix or just enjoy a calm, quiet space for a while.
3 Easy Back-to-School Writing Prompts
- How I Spent My Summer Vacation is a classic for a reason; everyone does something over the summer break, and it’s exciting for children to share the things they enjoy doing!
- My Perfect Vacation can be a useful alternative to offer students who claim they didn’t do anything over the break or whose families were unable to go on a vacation this summer.
- What I Want to Accomplish This Year is a great introduction to goal-setting, while also being an excellent way for you to get to know your students and for students to get to know each other!
Being able to reflect on our past thoughts and actions gives us limitless potential to improve the way we interact with others and how we treat ourselves.
This is how we can start to break down existing negative or self-sabotaging patterns and replace them with habits that will lift us up and help us lift up others as well. When reflecting on the past, it’s important to lead with kindness, not least of all kindness towards oneself—especially when remembering situations that had a negative outcome.
Elementary students are beginning to understand that they have agency and the power to make (some of!) their own choices. This is an ideal time for them to start learning how to mindfully reflect on their past choices and actively work towards making the best choices they can with the information they have in any given situation.
5 Reflective Back-to-School Writing Prompts
- What is something you learned over the summer that you want to make sure to remember this year?
- How is the beginning of school this year the same as the beginning of school last year? How is it different? Why do you think that is?
- What are some things you learned last year that you can use this year to be more successful?
- What subjects did you find most challenging last year? Do you have any ideas to help make those subjects less challenging this year?
- As your teacher, what’s the most important thing for me to know about you to help you succeed?
Are you Enjoying this Content?
Reflection Skills in Real Life
- When you encounter a new situation, think about whether it’s similar to another situation you’ve already been in before.
- If you’re doing something you’ve done before, think about how it went the last time and whether there’s another way to do it that might have a better result.
- When you’re watching a movie or listening to someone tell a story, think about how you would react if the same thing happened to you. (You don’t need to say it out loud, just think about it.)
Creativity is a valuable skill across all areas of life; from school and play to work and interpersonal relationships, there’s nowhere a sense of imagination and a talent for out-of-the-box thinking isn’t an asset.
Taking time to let students’ imaginations run wild with pen and paper also provides all the benefits of any other writing practice: spelling, grammar, penmanship, sentence structure and vocabulary-building are just a small sample of the sneaky lessons that come along with any creative writing prompt!
Students who are highly imaginative tend to have more fantastical solutions to general, everyday problems and can sometimes seem to lose themselves completely in creative play.
5 Imaginative Back-to-School Writing Prompts
- Picture the perfect elementary school. What does it look like? What kind of playground and gym does it have? What do they serve for lunch? Who goes there?
- If all technology suddenly disappeared, what would happen at your school? How would your school day work with no phones, computers, TVs, lights, etc.?
- What if you lived at your school? Where would people sleep? What would you do on the weekends? How would your parents/guardians react?
- Write a poem about school and the way you feel about it.
- Imagine someone with the same name as your school. What would that person be like? What kind of personality would they have? What would they do for fun?
Imagination Skills in Real Life
- When you’re waiting for an ad to be over during a show, imagine what the characters might do in the next part of the show.
- If you don’t know how to do something, imagine the different ways it could be done. Then look it up and see whether your way is a good solution.
- When someone is having a strong emotional reaction, imagine how you would feel and react in a similar circumstance.
Start Your Class Project Early!
A great way to start the year and build bonds that will encourage a mutually supportive classroom environment is to have the entire class contribute towards a project together—and it’s hard to find a more enticing class project than creating a classbook with one of our FREE classbook publishing kits.
Creating a classbook is a fantastic way to get your students’ imaginations flowing and encourage collaboration within your classroom. All you have to do is decide on a topic or theme with your class and then help them get started creating the art and words that they will include. Don’t forget to plan some time for brainstorming the title and cover, and you’re on your way!
Ambition and Action
Anyone who’s ever spent some time talking to an elementary student has quickly realized that they’re bottomless wells of high hopes and big dreams! We’ve found that students at the elementary level are more than capable of defining a goal, breaking it down into smaller, more manageable steps (sometimes this part needs a bit of help!) and deciding how to complete those steps in a logical order.
This is also a great time to lead a discussion about future goals and immediate goals.
Immediate goals are those that are specific, measurable and within the student’s ability to complete. Future goals are those that the student won’t be able to pursue at this time but can sometimes be broken down into smaller goals that are currently achievable. For example, if a student wants to become a famous singer, that’s a future goal that they can support by learning songwriting, joining a choir or learning to play an instrument!
5 Goal-Setting Back-to-School Writing Prompts
- What is one goal you have for the school year? How do you plan to reach that goal?
- Do you spend time studying outside of school? Why or why not? Do you think this helps you complete your classroom goals? Why?
- What is one thing you want to commit to this year to make yourself a better person? How will this help you or help others?
- Does anyone in your family have big goals they’re working towards? What are they doing to make their goals a reality?
- If your friend had a big goal they were having trouble with, what would you suggest they do to help them reach their goal?
Ambition and Action Skills in Real Life
- Set aside enough time to complete homework instead of waiting until the last minute.
- Set weekly goals and check them off as you complete them.
- Practice breaking large goals down into smaller tasks, using a list as necessary.
These 18 back-to-school writing prompts will help your elementary students keep their developing skills in focus during the joyful chaos that is the start of every new school year. With your encouragement and gentle guidance, students will also be more likely to continue their education outside the classroom with self-paced, ad hoc lessons they choose to pursue on their own.
Whether your students decide to pursue writing as a hobby that may later become a career or use journaling as a way to work through their complex, developing thoughts and emotions, there’s no better way to introduce them to all the future paths they can choose than by transitioning from the disappointment of summer’s end into the exciting potential of a new school year!